When Paul and I fell in love, we fell hard. We were everything to each other. However, we were still learning how to love ourselves and didn’t realize the amount of baggage we were dragging behind us. Our childhoods were something we were still healing from and it was in our love for each other that we found a sense of sanctuary.

Our relationship was like an island and we were castaways. In our initials moments, whether months or years, we felt like all we needed was each other. The loving looks and physical connection – not just sexually but almost on a cosmic level – felt like our very souls needed each other to breathe.

Nevertheless, at a moment’s notice, the love runs out and the despise sets in. The person you adore has now become the person you resent. They slowly become your enemy. Paul and I were no different. We attempted to solve what problems we could with our limited understanding of the psychology behind our relationship’s root issues. We were at a place where we were constantly defensive against one another. Our childhoods took up their swords and said, “Do your worst,” and the verbal (and physical) fencing began.

We realized that it is too easy to give up and to simply allow the fabric of our union to be pulled apart and discarded. While some couples cling to each other in times of despair, others simply give up. Paul and I hadn’t realized that clinging to each other would not solve our problems and at times would even make them worse. We attempted to seek help, but we couldn’t find a therapist whose advice felt like it was meant to help both of us as a unit. Our relationship was at a tumultuous place. We were entering into the early stages of at least three of the Four Horsemen causing a tidal wave of emotions from our childhoods bringing about a relational tsunami in our lives.

My husband and I had no idea what we were committing ourselves to when we decided that we couldn’t be apart from each other. There was no manual or guidebook on how much your actions and reactions affect the significant other in your life. Similar to parenting, you are given a person’s heart and life to be responsible for and yet the instructions are left out.

Then we found Julie Gottman, a wonderfully insightful and wise woman. This kindred spirit took our wounded relationship and began to gently nurse us back to the beginning stages of health. It’s interesting how relationships tether you to someone emotionally. The hardships and triumphs act as lifelines, teaching you how to trust in your partner. Our relationship was a buoy in the dark storm of life and we clung to each other because it was all that we had and all that we had known.

With Julie’s counseling, mentoring, and care, our relationship weathered many of these storms, allowing us to heal ourselves and each other. The Gottman Method made a lasting impact in our lives and in our relationship. Simply put, Julie taught us how to heal. She not only made us aware of our pain, but more importantly, of its source. This gave us the courage to seek healing, not only for ourselves, but also as a team. We became like “wounded healers,” attempting to not only heal from the pain and trauma of our own childhoods, but also to forgive each other for the pain we caused. Once healed, we established Urban Family in 2007 to pay it forward by serving youth in our community.

Growing together, I knew one thing for sure: I loved this man. Fear is an enticing weapon of choice for couples, but with the right training, you can stop giving in to fear and begin to heal. Paul and I have learned that even though we may never fully recover from the traumas of our past, it’s our patience and love for one another that have enabled our relationship to thrive. We have Julie Gottman to thank for this – without her, we would still be lost at sea.

More in The Archives
Finding Julie Gottman
Shantel Patu

Featured in the Level 1 Clinical Training films and Therapy Sessions: LIVE, Shantel is the co-founder of Urban Family, a community-based organization that provides urban youth with the tools, resources, and support to become leaders, mentors, and role models in socially challenged environments. She lives in Seattle with her husband Paul and four children.